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COVID-19 National Headlines and FAQ's

National COVID-19 Headlines from PBS NewsHour
  • Hospitalizations for COVID are at an all-time low four years after the start of the pandemic, but new variants are in circulation. Meanwhile, bird flu has been found in 36 dairy herds across nine states, though there has been only one confirmed human case so far in 2024. To find out how concerned we should be about all of this, John Yang speaks with epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina.
  • The nation is "in a different place" with the COVID pandemic than it was four years ago, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, who directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with wider access to treatments and prevention strategies. These new recommendations reflect fewer hospitalizations and deaths from respiratory illnesses, including COVID.
  • Studies coming out later this year will assess how effective the shot was at preventing symptoms severe enough to send patients to a doctor's office or hospital.
  • Misinformation is still shaping how people perceive the virus and tools designed to protect individuals and communities against COVID's worst outcomes, public health experts and doctors say.
  • The U.S. is experiencing another uptick in COVID infections after the holidays, with hospitalizations rising for the eighth week in a row. A new dominant variant, JN.1, has quickly spread to account for more than 60 percent of cases. John Yang speaks with epidemiologist Jessica Malaty Rivera to learn more about the surge and what it tells us about how we deal with COVID moving forward.
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NPR COVID-19 Headlines Here:

COVID-19 Need to Know Basics

What is COVID-19?

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a new coronavirus that hasn't been previously identified. The virus causing COVID-19 isn't the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness like the common cold.

A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 isn't the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and treated differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis, the Centers for Disease Control said.

The CDC is updating its Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) page regularly at noon, Mondays through Fridays. Numbers close out at 4 p.m. the day before reporting.

Prevention, Symptoms and Treatment of COVID-19

There's currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC recommends preventive actions every day to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you're sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue away.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

The CDC doesn't recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for COVID-19 cases, the CDC said. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus and include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

There's no specific treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should get care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions, the CDC said.

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Where Did COVID-19 Come From?

The CDC said coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some of which cause illness in people, others cause illness in animals only. Rarely, coronaviruses that infect animals have infected people as well and can be spread between people.

This is what the CDC thinks happened for the virus that caused COVID-19.

"Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people," the CDC said.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus

How do you explain the concept of germs for kids to understand? Do you just tell them to wash their hands and hope they get the importance? When it comes to germs, it's important for kids to learn the facts in a digestible way -- one that's not too daunting. So how do you explain to them the coronavirus?

A quote by Mr. Rogers guides us through that challenging question: "Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.”

Here's a few tips to help navigate the conversation, courtesy of PBS Kids.

First, share age-appropriate facts and corrected misinformation

Second, reassure them that they're safe.

Third, emphasize simple things your family can do to be “germ busters” — for all types of germs that are out there, including hand washing, covering your cough and practicing healthy habits.

You can also use PBS resources to help teach your children. In this Curious George clip, the Man with the Yellow Hat has a cold. Curious George learns how germs can move from person to person and that it's important to wash your hands.

Daniel Tiger is also a great resource. This Daniel Tiger clip, "Germs, Germs Go Away. Don’t come back any day," provides tips to keep germs away by washing hands and coughing into your elbow.